Love (Not) For Sale

    Or, how one of the best albums of 2006 got shelved.
    It was in the summer of 2005 that the buzz over the new Bilal album started to build. At a Beat Society event in Philly, he unveiled a couple of tracks that were very different from the sound on his debut album, 1st Born Second. Early in 2006, a rough cut of a new Bilal album, Love For Sale, surfaced. Days later, Bilal expressed concern on his Myspace page stating that the leak of his album would possibly lead to its shelving.
    At the time I just dismissed this as another artist being oversensitive about his work, much like Lupe Fiasco. Sure, the Jean Grae and 9th Wonder project, Jeanius, was notoriously shelved after its leak. But countless other projects (Madvillain, Jaylib, Talib Kweli), have been leaked in their infancy and still saw the light of day. Right after I read Bilal”’s panic attack on his Myspace page, I naturally went searching for a copy of the leak. It”’s what I do. [more:]
    After hunting down the Love For Sale via an undisclosed P2P network, I gave it a listen. Simply put, it was some next level shit. With unconventional rhythms, a fusion of genres, and a divergence from the three-minute pop song structures currently plaguing R&B and Soul, it was a breath of fresh air for a dying genre. It has remained in my musical rotation since.
    But here we are seven months after the leak of Love For Sale and neither Bilal, nor Universal Records have spoken one word about the album. In fact, Bilal is not even listed as an artist on their site (but somehow the Crazy Frog is). Common sense would dictate that the album was shelved. My question is: why?
    The first possibility for the shelving of the album revolves around the issue of album sales. But I”’m dismissing this for a couple of reasons. Bilal has never been a multi-platinum recording artist. He”’s never been a TRL icon. He”’s never made music for the masses. Universal Records never put a lot into his marketing and promotion. So it seems foolish that the label would expect that of him now. Secondly, the TV on Radio album Return to Cookie Mountain leaked around the same time, in an incomplete form, and was released with minimal concern about its early leak. It is also necessary to point out that they were not multi-platinum recording artists either.
    A second possibility is that the Universal was scared off by the complexity and originality of Love For Sale, ala Q-tip”’s Kamaal the Abstract. It is definitely an album that challenges its listener from beginning to end. But I find this unlikely because if that were the case, all this talk about its leak would have never arisen to begin with.
    So I”’m back where I started wondering why this happened. All I can do is attribute it to label stupidity. This is the same label giving Webstar a huge push for the amazingly lucky hit ””Minstrel Noodle Soup””. They can hide behind their pages upon pages of analysis and justify their reasons, but I still consider it to be the height of stupidity.
    The Solution is simple. Put the damn album out. It is a rare occaision when I actually talk to someone who has heard that album. I seriously doubt the album has been heavily bootlegged. Will Universal really lose more, if any, money by putting the album out?
    Since that most likely won’t happen, they should let Bilal shop the album out to another label and see if anyone will buy the rights to the album. Unrealistic? Yes. But I could see a label like BBE, or Def Jam Left putting this album out. I would even say G.O.O.D. Music, but Kanye is even worse than Dr. Dre when it comes to putting stuff out (I”’m also still waiting for the Sa-Ra album). There is no reason why Love For Sale should be left to rot in the vaults until Stones Throw acquires its publishing rights in 2021.
    Something To Hold On To (MP3)